Architectural Education is Work

(BA/BSc/DipArch/MA/MSc/MArch) Architecture is a vocational degree: you have to work in practice to become an ‘Architect’.

arch_school_conf2It’s that time of year again… © Rémi Carreiro for The Varsity

“High fees, debt, the fear of debt, low wages, poor working practices and educational models that reflect aspects of practice based on individualism and competition rather than collective action and mutual support have put intolerable pressure on those students who can still study and has excluded many more” – Robert Mull, architecture director and dean of University of Brighton (Dezeen).

We believe that students shouldn’t be thinking about how to become ‘good’ architects but instead using the opportunity of university to challenge the current practices of architecture and developing alternatives.

  • Will you be taught about good values / ethics?
  • Will your tutors promote critical thinking?
  • How much will your time and effort be valued during/after university?
  • Will you be encouraged to compete with your peers?
  • Do you enjoy boosting your own ego?
  • Will your education prepare you for professional work?
  • Is your choice of university based on networking opportunities for future employment?
  • Will your employer value your personal development?
  • How big is/will be your student debt?
  • Will your education affect your health?
  • Who will fund your end of year show? (Hint: developer/architect/philanthropist)

Architectural Workers have a manifesto and a list of demands. If you are interested in joining as a student, email us. If you’re returning to study for your Part II/III, how did you find your experience in practice? Fill in our anonymous survey.

We have all been through architectural education and practice and many of you may have experienced discrimination based on ability, age, class, gender, and race. It’s time to do something about it. We can collectively develop alternative forms of work.

Our ambition is to form university branches of of Architectural Workers to help secure better working conditions, alongside a more ethical practice. Defined by you.


RIBA’s new president: our position

On Thursday 14th September, Ben Derbyshire, chair of HTA Design (lead consultants on the regeneration of the Aylesbury Estate, amongst many others), will be inaugurated as the new President of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

(c) Simon Elmer.jpg

People wear masks of Ben Derbyshire’s face at the Architects for Social Housing-organised protest against the nomination of dRMM’s Trafalgar Place for the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize. Image: © Mike Kear 

To celebrate, HTA Design will be hosting a £100-a-ticket party to raise money for students in financial hardship. Somewhat ironically, the architectural assistants – the young architects who may at one point be claiming the RIBA hardship fund – who are employed by HTA Design are not always remunerated for their overtime work, and therefore not paid the London Living Wage.

On the same evening, RIBA is also hosting ‘You’re Never Too Young To Change The World’, a networking event “bringing together the cream of the property and architecture world”, organised by YADA (Young Architects and Developers Alliance).

These two events are prime examples of why RIBA does not represent the interests of young architects (- read our previous comments about RIBA here). Whilst, post-Grenfell, the AJ and the Guardian are finally getting to a point where they have to admit that estate regeneration is “toxic“, and suggest that “housing architects do not take a stand“, young architects are being encouraged to cosy up to developers, and celebrate being deserving of charity. Architects at all stages of development have agency; we have a responsibility to determine the ethics by which we practice. For us, this doesn’t involve the destruction and social cleansing of council estates like the Heygate or the Aylesbury for the profit of private developers.

Like many others, Architectural Workers call for the immediate removal of Ben Derbyshire as President of RIBA. He is unfit to lead an institution that is supposed to represent the profession, and highlight the best of British architecture. This is highlighted in the comment, “not everyone believes that public money should be used to subsidise families to live in areas they could not otherwise afford to“, with regard to Will Hurst’s article on the critique of the nomination of Trafalgar Place for the Stirling Prize.

Fun fact! Ben Derbyshire wrote a review in the RIBA Journal of Talking Houses, a book written by Colin Ward, an outspoken anarchist architect:

“The relevance of the anarchist analysis ought to be self-evident… This book is a valuable source of practical examples of user control and provides glimpses of a well constructed ideological framework to set them…conveyed with absolute clarity.”

[The position of HTA Design within the practice of estate regeneration was represented by Simon Bayliss, Managing Partner, at our recent event “What is the architect’s role in the housing ‘crisis’?”. Read the full transcript here.]

This article was amended on the 13th September 2017. An earlier version said that HTA Design ‘continuously asked [their employees] to work unpaid overtime’. This has been corrected to say that staff of HTA Design are ‘not always remunerated for their overtime work’.


We were invited by Architects for Social Housing to contribute to the collective discussion they facilitated with their residency at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), from August 14th – 20th. 

For those who aren’t familiar with why we exist, we produced a booklet:

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There was also a laptop, which displayed the screen below:

‘Architecture Working’, a short film as viewed through the computer screen of an architectural worker, from university to work. We are underrepresented and over-worked. We are exploited to design out and displace the exploited.

And on the wall we pinned up a series of questions:

Above: © Simon Elmer, Architects for Social Housing

As we have asked before, “What is the architect’s role in the housing crisis?” What do architectural workers think when they are faced with a project that involves regeneration, gentrification and social cleansing?

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Transcript of Event: “What is the Architect’s Role in the ‘Housing Crisis’?”

Below is a full transcript of the event held on the 28th June at Cressingham Gardens between invited speakers: architects who work in regeneration, academics who specialise in gentrification, housing activists,  and council estate residents; and members of the public. All attendees were invited to take part in an open discussion about the role of the architect in the housing crisis. We wanted to ask what agency the architect has, and discuss its limits and potential. Our aim was to facilitate an active discussion between all of the ‘experts’ in, and those directly affected by, estate ‘regeneration’.

Please click here to download a copy of the full transcript.